It’s time to right the wrongs in women’s sport
There’s no getting around it. Sportswomen are given a raw deal. It’s a frustrating reality being dealt with every day and, while things may be changing, it’s happening at a snail’s pace, which simply isn’t good enough.
Having been involved in championing and promoting women’s sport for more than 25 years, I’ve witnessed how women are sidelined over and over again, getting significantly less coverage in the media compared with their male counterparts.
Take a look at netball, for example. Without the sustained support of supermarket giant Spar, the national team would simply be nowhere. And while they at least have a significant sponsor, could the majority of South Africans name the current captain of the Proteas side? Yet we all know who Siya Kolisi and co are.
It’s the hugely inspiring Bongi Msomi, by the way.
Msomi has the type of story and background that makes her the perfect South African role model for both girls and boys, and that should be celebrated. She’s gone from a township in rural KwaZuluNatal to England’s prestigious Superleague.
Are South Africans aware of that? Most probably not. They probably also don’t know that she was in action with the South African side that swept all competition aside at the Diamond Challenge, which came to an end in Polokwane this weekend.
The crowds at the Limpopo tournament were enthusiastic and vocal, but the venue was by no means packed to the rafters.
That’s because the talented women in action are not widely recognised like their male equivalents are because their achievements are not highlighted.
It’s one of those impossible situations where more investment is needed to attract media attention while more media focus is needed to draw in the sponsors. As an example, I am part of the team tasked with trying to get as much coverage for the Spar Proteas as possible. But resources are limited. Media houses would simply never use their budgets to send journalists to next year’s Netball World Cup – the pinnacle of the sport for any netball player.
Now, faced with the prospect of little to no coverage for the national side that’s representing the largest women’s sport in this country, do we send a team of media representatives to cover the tournament, or do we use that money to fund a visiting overseas team for a locally based series?
Sure, that will afford the Proteas much-needed international competition, but will it grow the game in terms of exposure to potential sponsors?
What we should be asking is: Why aren’t the sponsors interested to begin with? This is something that I was stunned by when I managed the greatest woman tennis player this country has produced – Amanda Coetzer – for 10 years.
She was hugely successful (rising to number three in the world), affable and had all the qualities of someone you’d think would be hugely marketable. Yet, because she was a woman, we always struggled.
Granted, this isn’t a problem unique to South Africa. Globally, mind-sets have to change. There are certain countries where these attitudes are changing faster than others, but there is still a long, long way to go.
What we need in South Africa is a better partnership between government and corporates. We mustn’t fool ourselves – government has bigger priorities than sport and more urgent problems to sort out like education, health services and creating job opportunities.
I believe corporates are the ones who need to up their game. Spar has openly appealed to others, saying it doesn’t want to be the lone supporter of women’s sport out there. However, the call seems to have landed on deaf ears.
I must make mention here of support shown by SuperSport, particularly to netball, in broadcasting international series as well as the annual Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League and signing with Netball SA as its official broadcaster.
With this backing, the sport is at least starting to get a larger following. The more the country sees our remarkable sportswomen in action, the more things will start to change.
My sincere hope for us in South Africa it that Banyana Banyana’s phenomenal success in achieving what their male counterparts have failed to do will create a new level of excitement in the media around our female athletes.
Let this spark of interest be a turning point, a change of direction and a righting of previous wrongs.
SHE’S GOT IT Proteas netball captain Bongi Msomi